Navigon’s MobileNavigator is by far my favorite* iPhone GPS app – after reviewing an ad hoc distribution of it, I paid $69 to buy it (while it was on sale a little while ago) and have also purchased the traffic feature via an in-app purchase (also while it was on sale). Today, Navigon has made available several MyRegion versions of their navigation app which cover a portion of the U.S., each available for $24.99 (this is an introductory price and the regular price will be $29.99 after April 12).
Yesterday I mentioned that I could envision having 2 cases for my iPad – one silicone skin-type case without a cover for reading and other casual use around home and another one with a cover to protect it while I’m traveling with it. For the latter, I’ve come across one contender so far – the Cloak by Quirky.
Well, this may not be perfect according to everyone’s standards, but it’s damn near close for my needs.
- 1 BMW X3 (with built-in OEM Bluetooth car kit)
- 1 OEM iPod-your-BMW kit
- 1 ProClip adjustable tilt + swivel iPhone mount
- 1 Scosche passPORT Firewire-to-USB charging converter
- 1 6-foot CableJive iPod/iPhone extension cable
I’ve had this OEM iPod kit in my car since I bought it and it’s worked flawlessly with an old iPod nano that permanently resided in my glovebox. However, now that GPS apps are now widely available for the iPhone, I wanted to hook up my iPhone to my car so I could hear the navigation guidance audio over my car’s speakers and charge my iPhone at the same time with the same cable. Yet there were a couple of obstacles to overcome first…
- The iPod cable in my glovebox was not quite long enough to reach the place on my dashboard where my ProClip holder resides, so I needed an extension cable for this. 3GJuice makes a 24-inch one that sells for $24.95 on Amazon. It’s black and would have been a bit less obvious against my black dashboard, so I went for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Next, I tried a similar extension cable from USBFever. No dice with that one either. I half-heartedly ordered a CableJive cable, expecting to see the same result. But it worked! God bless CableJive!
- The iPod-your-BMW kit charges via Firewire only, so if I wanted my iPhone to get a charge – particularly important when using power-intensive apps like GPS ones – I needed a charging converter to work with my iPhone 3GS. Scosche sells one, and I got it from Amazon
I do have a Belkin iPhone car charger but my cigarette lighter/charging port for the front seats is inside the ashtray, and it’s not the prettiest thing to leave this open all the time when I want to charge my iPhone, and it’s a bit of a pain to keep digging the charger out of the center console as well. Hence my desire to make sure I could charge my iPhone using the cord for the connector kit that is in my glovebox.
I’ve had the ProClip mount almost as long as I’ve had this car as well, albeit with different holders for the different phones I’ve had. The current holder is an iPhone 3G/3GS-specific one that accommodates a naked/skinned iPhone (I have a Gelaskins skin on it at the moment – my review of this skin is here). It also tilts and swivels so I can switch my iPhone to landscape orientation and adjust the viewing angle, with an additional arm that will prevent it from falling out when swiveled on its side or even upside down – you can find it on ProClip’s site here. I can’t say enough good things about ProClip mounts – they require no modification to your dashboard since they just pop into existing seams and they look far more professional than the air vent and windshield mounts I’ve seen. They are a bit pricey, but definitely worth it in my opinion.
Honestly, I do not like the look of wires hanging about my dashboard, but I was hesitant to drill through my dashboard to make this a little cleaner. However, since it’s just one black cord that peeks out of the back of the glovebox and drapes only 12 inches or so over my also-black dashboard before hitting the side of the passenger footwell, I’m not *too* bothered by this (this picture actually makes it look more obvious than it does in person).
To avoid the cable from dangling into the passenger footwell and the plug end from flopping around on my dashboard when my iPhone is not connected, I used some wire clips (kindly procured by my husband) and velcro. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with velcro, but it works very well for this, including keeping the dock connector end stuck to my dashboard in a place that makes it easy to grab when I need it and quick to store yet out of the way when I’m done.
In the end, if not aesthetically flawless, my set-up is is spot-on for what I need:
- Incoming calls are already routed via Bluetooth through my car’s speaker. I can accept and end calls using a button my steering wheel. I can initiate calls using my car’s voice command system, or I can browse my contacts list on the stereo’s display using buttons on my steering wheel. Music playing through the stereo or iPod app fades out and in with incoming and outgoing calls.
- Music playback from the iPod app works flawlessly, though it is limited a bit by the iPod-your-BMW kit. I have to set up special playlists labeled BMW1-Playlist1, BMW2-Playlist2, etc. for the kit to see the playlists and play music from them. It’s not the greatest and requires advanced planning, but it works and I’m used to it. I am considering changing this kit out for an after-market one that offers more functionality, but that’s not in my budget at the moment. If I really want to listen to something I just downloaded that’s not in a specially-made playlist that the system will see, all I need to do is start playing it before I plug it in and it will automatically pick up playing where it left off – I think this is a bit of a glitch with the iPod kit, but it’s a handy one.
- Audio from GPS apps plays over my car’s speakers. Depending on the app, music will fade out before the navigation guidance and fade back in afterward, or guidance will simply play over the music. With the TomTom app (my review for work), this means music stops and starts abruptly when voice guidance is given. With the Navigon (my review) and Sygic (my review) apps, music fades out and back in nicely before and after voice guidance.
The only downside (aside from the limitations of the iPod-your-BMW kit) is that I must plug in my iPhone each and every time I get in the car if I want to listen to music from it. If I’m lazy and don’t do this, I can still listen to FM radio or a CD, of course, and my calls will still be routed via Bluetooth and all of those functions remain intact. However, I’ve found myself plugging my iPhone in as soon as I get in the car all the time, even for short rides to the gym or post office. I really dislike FM radio (too much chatter and advertising) and I haven’t made a new CD in ages with more recently-obtained music that I usually want to listen to.
Overall, I’m very pleased with my set-up. If you have any questions about any of the products I’ve mentioned in this post, please don’t hesitate to email me or post a comment.
Of course, I was glued to my computer yesterday watching multiple sites providing live coverage of Apple’s event. From the overwhelming number of rumors in the past few months, everyone pretty much knew what was going to be announced, though the actual design of the tablet and detailed specs hadn’t been pinned down. I actually screamed like a sweaty teenaged girl at a Jonas Brothers concert when Steve Jobs first held up the iPad on stage. Fortunately no one but the dog saw this bit of highly undignified behavior. And the dog was not amused.
Now, I can’t see Apple *not* making the MobileMe synchronization happen. Plus, the iPad should already be able to use Apple’s existing iDisk app anyway, so the iDisk access should be a non-issue. However, what will be key for me will be the ability to open and edit documents stored on my iDisk (I’ve previously ranted about how this isn’t possible on the iPhone, which still drives me crazy). This is how I already use my iDisk – I store work documents exclusively on my iDisk so that I can access them from my desktop or my MacBook Air without needing to worry about document version control. (Before you start to worry, my iDisk is backed up regularly in case Something Bad happens on Apple’s end.)
I know Apple demo’ed iWork for the iPad yesterday, but I’d really need to get my hands on it to see how well it worked for me. However, iWork may not even be an option for me since I use some relatively complicated Excel spreadsheets for work and I’m not even sure that Numbers could handle them without losing some of my formulas and macros. I’m hoping that Dataviz (the developers of the Documents to Go app for the iPhone and other platforms) will optimize their app for the iPad, AND that Apple allows 3rd-party apps to access iDisks (or some file storage on the iPad itself).
I saw the on-screen virtual keyboard and it looked like it was pretty quick, though those announcing the iPad and demonstrating it at the hands-on event afterward had the benefit of getting used to it for a good while, I bet. I definitely do not expect to be able to type 90+ words per minute on the iPad as I can on a full-sized mechanical keyboard, but I’d like to be at least as fast on it as I am on my iPhone, on which I’m about half as fast as I am on a regular keyboard.
I was just listening to last week’s MacBreak Weekly podcast (my favorite Mac-related podcast) and Leo and company were speculating about 3G connectivity in the rumored Apple tablet. They also mentioned the Kindle, discussing it as a dedicated device and how reading on its e-ink screen is preferred by many over reading on an LCD screen as would appear on the tablet. This got me thinking about the Kindle a little more and its Whispernet connectivity that offers free 3G connectivity – no sign-up required, no contract, and it’s free for as long as you own the Kindle (at least Amazon hasn’t said anything to the contrary).
A little light bulb then went on above my head: What if Apple will offer free 3G connectivity – like Amazon does with the Kindle – with their new tablet? Here’s what makes me think that this is very possible:
- In my view, it’s unlikely that Apple wouldn’t offer a portable device like a tablet – which will presumably be a device meant for media consumption and maybe as a partial laptop replacement – without 3G connectivity. So far, Apple hasn’t offered any laptop computer with a built-in 3G modem, unlike almost every other computer manufacturer. They are overdue in offering this. Plus, seeing the success of the iPhone with it’s 24/7 internet connectivity via 3G/EDGE or wi-fi has probably got them thinking about what this could mean for future products. More connectivity = more media consumption = more App Store/iTunes sales.
- Most iPhone users already pay for an unlimited data plan (some carriers offer limited data plans, though they still charge an additional fee for this on top of the voice plan) and adding another data plan for another device on top of that would be highly-unattractive and most likely unfeasible for many. Apple wouldn’t want to automatically drive away iPhone users who don’t want to foot yet another bill for internet access. Offering this for free would mitigate this issue.
- Apple recently purchased Quattro, a mobile advertising network. *I can’t see Apple using this network on the iPhone for their own apps, of which they have relatively few at this point: Remote ($0), iDisk ($0), MobileMe Gallery ($0), Texas Hold’em ($4.99) and Keynote Remote ($2.99). It wouldn’t make sense for them to put ads in their free apps – Apple is not hurting for cash and these apps simply augment the functionality of existing Apple products (MobileMe and any Mac). They could place ads in their paid apps, but Apple didn’t purchase Quattro simply to add revenue from 2 apps. But, their own mobile ad network on a wildly popular tablet device could probably easily fund 3G connectivity for the lifetime of the device.
- One more thing: Apple purchased Lala, a streaming music service, in December. Leveraging this with a tablet (that will probably sell like hotcakes) with free 3G connectivity (plus the iPhone, given the data plan users are already paying for) would be a smart move to establish a large customer base right from the start.
*The New York Times speculated that Apple purchased Quattro to compete with Google and offer app developers advertising for their apps, providing an all-in-one experience for developers who want to show ads in their apps to earn revenue. While this is possible, I don’t think this is why Apple purchased Quattro. Apple isn’t in the business of selling ads. They sell hardware and software melded together to give a specific customer experience, plus content through iTunes which is also presented in a way to enhance the customer experience. Apple won’t push ads simply for the sake of revenue in established channels – this feels vastly out of character for them in my view. Apple is smart, and if they’re going to offer anything free to a large number of customers, they’ll have a way to stay in the black to satisfy shareholders that works for them with minimal fuss.
As a former Kindle owner (I had a first-gen Kindle for a few months before I changed my mind about having a dedicated device for reading that cost $200 when reading on my iPhone with the free Kindle app worked just as well for me), I can attest that having free 3G on a device meant for media consumption is absolutely fabulous. In fact, that was my favorite feature of the Kindle – instant access to browse for new books, or to even browse the web with its experimental browser is a killer feature and it has led the Kindle to be the foremost ebook reader on the market today. I think it’s a formula for success for an Apple tablet that can be a mobile media hub for users.
So, that’s my prediction. What do you think? I haven’t seen anyone put all of these pieces together like this so far though I admit I haven’t read the entire internet to confirm this, but I haven’t gotten this idea from anyone else. I totally call dibs on credit for this prediction if it turns out to be true. 😉
(See my previous blog post for more Apple tablet thoughts.)